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Factsheet: UK visa services

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) received more than 3.3 million visa applications in the year ending June 2019, of which almost 2.9 million were granted.

The UK offers a high-quality service for those wishing to come to the UK. It’s a straightforward application process which can be completed online, whether coming to the UK on holiday, to work, study, or join family.

The UK welcomes genuine visitors. Over 2.4 million visitor visas were granted, for leisure, study or business, an increase of 8% in the past year.

There is an Assisted Digital support service that is available to applicants in the UK who do not have the appropriate access, skills or confidence to complete an online application form.

UKVI commercial partners:

  • UKVI works with commercial partners to deliver some public facing services. These primarily include capturing applicant’s biometric data and supporting evidence. For overseas applications, this may also include the physical hand back of travel documents following a decision.
  • In the UK, UKVI work with Sopra Steria to run the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres. Overseas UKVI work with VFS Global and TLS Contact to run the Visa Application Centres.
  • We work closely with Sopra Steria, TLS and VFS to monitor their performance, make sure they provide an excellent service and deliver the high standards our contracts demand.
  • Commercial partners may offer additional, optional services which aim to enhance the applicant’s experience. We work closely with them to make sure that the services are designed and offered based on public insight and demand.
  • Through our commercial partners we offer a number of sites for people to attend appointments to enrol biometrics, such as photos and finger prints, submit evidence and in some cases overseas, be interviewed.
  • We work closely with commercial partners to ensure appointments are available.
  • The UKVI Contact Centre, a direct line to assist with UKVI related questions, is run by another commercial partner, Sitel. For people calling the contact centre from within the UK, the calls are free. Calls from overseas and emails are charged.

Visa Services in the UK:

  • In the UK, Sopra Steria and the Post Office, provide services which enable individuals to upload supporting evidence and biometric information, such as a photo, for visa applications.
  • In addition, the range of additional services Sopra Steria provide include:
    • Document checking
    • Document scanning assistance
    • Mobile biometric enrolment service – enabling applicants to submit their biometrics and evidence in a location that suits them
    • A support phone line to provide advice to applicants outside of their appointments

Visa services for overseas applications:

  • Overseas UKVI work with VFS Global and TLS Contact. They also provide services which enable individuals to upload supporting evidence and biometric information, such as a photo, for visa applications as well as returning travel documents.
  • In addition, the range of additional services they provide include:
    • Document scanning assistance
    • Express courier return
    • Keep my passport service – allowing applicants to keep their passport whilst their visa decision is being made
    • Mobile biometric enrolment service – enabling people to submit their biometrics and evidence in a location that suits them

Visa service standards:

Priority Services:

  • Where an applicant opts for the Priority Visa Service or Super Priority Service their application will be handled more quickly
  • If the case is complex it may take longer to handle. Where the delay is not attributed to the applicant’s circumstances, the priority fee will be refunded
  • All staff are fully aware of prioritising such applications at each stage and UKVI monitor the availability of appointments regularly.
  • The service standard for the Priority Visa Service is 5 working days of an applicant’s biometric appointment
  • The service standard for Super Priority Visa applications made in the UK is measured from the date of biometric enrolment to the end of the next working day (excluding weekends and bank holidays)
  • The terms and conditions of Super Priority Service and Priority Visa Service state that the fee is non-refundable once an applicant’s biometrics have been enrolled
  • Guidance on the Gov.uk page makes clear that the Super Priority Service can take longer if we require additional information
  • Information, including service standards, on our Super Priority Service can be found on Gov.uk
  • The Home Office does not make a profit from any priority services offered to applicants. Any financial benefit from these services to the Home Office go towards funding the wider immigration system

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